I am applying at the moment for an unpaid internship and I have a bumpy resumé:

At high-school I was not good at maths and we were not educated in STEM fields except of biology. So I started to study languages which I didn't like, I switched over to cultural science and also didn't like it. Ending up with the conclusion that I want to learn "solid" science I taught myself high school and college mathematics - so I switched over to physics, I passed a few courses with good grades, I have made two internships and received excellent job references from the companies via letter.

But I wasn't happy with physics either - I was happy to finally be in the STEM Field but physics was a little too abstract and I wanted to work in a more practical field. You can call me undecided at this point, but I see it more like that I was never in touch with STEM field and brought myself here by fixing my lack of knowledge on my own. So having all this opportunities in STEM field was something opening up to me lately in life, while others have this taught in school. I didn't want to switch subjects again because I was afraid to do so. After a longer period of time at which I performed poorly and became more and more unhappy at physics - I switched over to mechanical engineering at which I am totally happy.

So now I have to apply for an internship and I already received some offers. They now want to have all the documents and I am afraid that my resumé seems like a certificate of indecision rather than an explainable longer way of orientation.

I admit that staying that long in physics because of fear to switch again was a mistake. But nonetheless I am happy at what I am doing right now and I want to follow this path and do the necessary qualifications as this internship.

So this is the point I am honestly asking for help on how to explain that resumé when I am handing it out to companies.


So this is the point I am honestly asking for help on how to explain that resumé when I am handing it out to companies.

Please don't try to apologize when you're handing out your resume. Don't try to explain it. Don't try to justify it.

If you do any of that, I would just throw it in the trash.

Assume that your resume is fine. At your age, your demeanor is actually the more important part of the interaction with the recruiter.

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  • Why would you automatically throw it in the trash? – Bwmat Jan 17 at 8:24
  • @Bwmat, It's a figure of speech. I meant, he wouldn't be my top candidate. My point being, that for an internship, I'm looking for someone who projects assertiveness, not someone with a great resume. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 17 at 8:41
  • I just don't think assertiveness is a good metric in this context – Bwmat Jan 17 at 17:20

You are clearly not the best model of I-know-what-I-want, but up to a point, that is normal.

My own "path": informatics / programming - electronics and telecommunications - telecommunications - programming - software project management - programming again - requirements engineering and architecture - process engineer - (some change is already at the horizon, I do not know yet what it will be)

That is not indecisiveness, it is normal evolutionary path. It took about 30 years, with ups and downs. People sometimes asked me why I went back tp programming after being a manager. Simple - programming is closer to my heart and to my mind than management. After a stressful project as a manager, I went back to "relax". Then I took another challenge.

For your case, I would advise the following:

  • stop thinking that the path you took is bad; it is just a path;
  • explain to the companies / recruiters what you explained us here, how all these activities fit together;
  • underline that NOT being on the desired path was not a problem. When you understood that, you were pro-active and went towards the goals that fitted to you.

Another example: I had a colleague many years ago. He was a good and respected specialist (I was not close to him, so I am not sure what his job was - programming, electronics engineer, test engineer...; I heard the discussions of the colleagues about his quality of work). He gave up all the engineering in the famous multinational company to go study and follow... geography!! Is he a disaster person for that? Definitely not. Not to me.

Another example: many years ago, doing requirements engineering sounded to me like a punishment. Now I see it as a reward, especially if I have the opportunity to it properly.

Bottom line: we are not trees, rooted to the ground. If things have to change, we just move ahead.

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Mechanics and physics aren't that far apart. There are many ways to justify having studied other things before ending in the industry you're currently in, and lucky for you, physics and mechanics are closely related. I don't think you'll have any trouble explaining how the knowledge you acquired throughout those years could help your current career. Moreover, you worked in that field via internships! This is valuable experience that shows you have some knowledge of the workplace.

To me you have two choices: either mention all your experiences, even though allegedly unrelated (there are many ways in which your linguistics knowledge could be useful in a work environment). But I would rather opt for the second option, that is to mention all your experience related to physics and mechanics. Otherwise, I'm afraid you won't be able of fitting all your experiences in a single page (which is the best format for a resume when you're applying for junior positions) and since you want to work in mechanics, you'd rather sell your knowledge and experience with it.

If you choose to go for the second option and then the recruiters ask you why there's a gap in your resume, tell them about your previous studies and experiences. Don't be ashamed. There's nothing wrong in trying a few things to figure out what you like. I graduated as an electronics engineer and finished a dozen of projects related to communications and marketing throughout my time in college. I never worked in electronics. I started as a data engineer, I then pursued a career in support for network solutions and now I'm a full-stack DevOps engineer in healthcare. Yet all the things I did before arriving here are helpful for my current position. You have to figure out how to sell that previous experience. If you really want to be crystal clear with the recruiters and mention your whole journey on your resume, you could maybe add a little intro along the lines of "Polymath student aspiring to pursue a career as [insert mechanics related job]". But I'd rather wait for the recruiters to decide if that's worth questioning you about the gap/the different fields during the interview.

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  • 1
    +1 The OP can see all the negatives of their path so far, they need to find all the positives and emphasise those in their resumé. Ignore the negatives. A resumé is an exercise in self promotion, you wouldn't buy a car from a salseman who started by listing it's shortcomings – Dave Gremlin Jan 19 at 11:56

We all make decisions that we may, in the future, no longer agree with.

This stuff happens. People switch careers and degrees all the time to find what they are best suited to both in terms of capability and in mental reward. It is not a black mark against your name.

If you need to explain/sell it, you can tell them that while you had an appreciation for theoretical subjects, you found yourself preferring work that had more practical applications, however your experience in the more theoretical field helps you bring X, Y and Z to the table (for example, it may help you understand the mathematical theories that go into mechanical engineering, including perhaps the limitations of said theories)

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